In a letter to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, the Managing Director of Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, Shri RS Sondhi has drawn the attention of the government to the severe damage and disadvantage that will fall on 3.2 million farmers in the country if the EU-India FTA is signed, especially with regard to farm/dairy products.
Opposing the proposal strongly, Sondhi has pointed out that the FTA is not at all reciprocal but biased in favour of EU which heavily subsidises its farmers for dairy products.
It is important to note that EU does not permit import of dairy products from India in the name of SPS (Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary) measures saying that Indian milch animals are not maintained as per EU standard and hence the dairy products are not safe for consumption. Interestingly EU also subsidizes their milk farmers by giving various incentives on export of their dairy products which actually make their products cheaper than the cost. So EU wants to export such subsidised dairy products to India considering India as very large and growing market, without giving access to the Indian dairy products to its own market with large NRI population.
The EU demands also reveal that they want protection of some of the cheeses like Gouda, Feta, Emmenthal under GI (Geographical Indication) protection, meaning that Indian cheese producers cannot give such name to their cheese. At the same time, they want to sell Indian ethnic products like Paneer and Lassi in their own market without giving any protection to India. It is also noteworthy that in areas where India is richer, for example in traditional knowledge like Ayurvedic medicine and genetic resources like neem, the EU is refusing to take the measures to stop the biopiracy (protect biological resources by patenting them without paying royalties).
Essentially, EU is asking India to give more monopoly protection in the areas (GIs) where it has more intellectual property. This will cost Indian consumers (who have to pay higher prices) and Indian producers (who will no longer be able to clearly identify their products and so are highly likely to lose sales) who are already in nascent stage of agro food processing industry.
The EU is actually anticipating huge market opportunity in India once the comprehensive free trade agreement is ratified and hence is looking forward for every way to utilise marketing opportunity in India. India needs to be extremely cautious at this approach of EU to ensure that India’s interest is not hampered. Commerce Ministry had been requested to take up the matter very strongly against this protection esp. when majority of 80 millions Indian farmers (many of whom are marginal and landless) are very much dependent on milk business by keeping one or two cattle which provide their daily livelihood.